Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Wednesday. 17th. CFA Wednesday. 17th. CFA
Wednesday. 17th.

Morning rather cooler than it has been, with an Easterly Wind and 114cloudy but without rain. I passed an hour reading Vida’s Art of Poetry of which I can say, that it contains much valuable matter for a poet. But though it may make a good one, he will not be great. A great Poet must be an original. It will not do for every man of genius to be tied down to the track of Virgil and Homer. Had Virgil struck out a new path, with the same general melody of versification, would he not have held higher rank as a Poet. I do not mean to depreciate what he did, but I mean to apply to the genius the rule that all Critics apply to the species, there must be variety. What would have been Milton’s merit had he imitated Virgil as closely as this person did Homer? I do not think any great genius ought to imitate unless he is willing to admit his predecessor’s superiority.

Went to the Office. My Wife not quite so well today as the child will not take. I yet feel great anxiety about both. Occupied in writing my Journal and in copying a part of the eleventh and last Bible letter. Mr. Brooks called to let me know of some grapes which I was obliged to go myself to get. So I returned home and having been sent for to see Miss Oliver continued my walk to Hancock Street. She wants to keep the House, for two years more. Talked about repairs.

After dinner I read the Eleventh Book of Cicero’s Letters. The Correspondence of Decimus Brutus. The Letters of Brutus and Cassius to Antony are very dignified, and worthy of the men. The letter of Cicero to Matius and his reply are very good. Perhaps the reasoning in it is not entirely without basis. The question of the propriety of Caesar’s murder is a hard one to settle. But as a general rule one may be pretty sure that when a person is successful enough to become a tyrant, he is assisted to it full as much by the corruption of the People as by his own ability. It certainly was so here. Read Bacon’s Essay upon Truth which is good. Evening with my Wife, afterwards, Du Bos and the Spectator.

Thursday. 18th. CFA Thursday. 18th. CFA
Thursday. 18th.

I am twenty four years old this day. And what have I done to make the reflection of this age agreeable to me? Little or nothing. Time is flying and I am almost stationary. The past year has brought with it new cares and new relations. I am now a father as well as a husband and son. I believe I am duly grateful for the many blessings which I enjoy, and if I am anxious, it is only because I cannot altogether fulfill the measure which is set for me. My labours are not small and yet my progress is mortifying. On the whole this Anniversary was one of 115melancholy reflection upon myself, though not with any mixture of shame. I believe I may congratulate myself that I am innocent of any criminal neglect or violation of duty, and relying upon divine assistance to guide me in my further progress, I may hope that if I do not sustain the reputation transmitted to me, I shall at least place no spot upon it.

Morning finished Vida, who to my taste is very inferior to Horace. He is diffuse and weak though smooth. There is good sense, and judgment in his Verses and perhaps in point of method he is superior to his predecessor.

My Wife was quite weak this morning, and seemed to suffer a good deal. I went to the Office and finished copying the last of the Bible Letters; the thing now is to compare them, and the case is done. T. B. Adams Jr. called to see me and, I followed him down soon to see the Gallery of Paintings for exhibition. It is good but contains a very small proportion of pictures not before exhibited.1 Returned home and in the Afternoon read Cicero’s Letters to Cassius, Trebonius, and others in the 12th book, at the time of the final struggle for liberty. Read Bacon’s Essay on Death.

Evening with my Wife after which I read over the first Chapter of Grahame for further study. I want to fix firmly the early History. Read the Spectator as usual—Sir Roger at the Theatre.


The annual exhibition at the Athenaeum Gallery had opened on the preceding Monday and had already had a newspaper review (Boston Patriot, 15 Aug., p. 2, col. 2; 17 Aug., p. 2, cols. 3–4).